I’m following Hazel Campbell and Diane Browne in a discussion on why boys don’t read fiction, sparked by a NY Times essay ‘Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?’ by Robert Lipsyte (August 19, 2011). The article focused on boys who can read but don’t. The bigger problem we have in Jamaica is so many boys not learning to read at all, or reading far below their level.
Boys find the early stages of reading to be a chore, not enjoyable activity because of the circumstances in which they are taught. Classrooms are often overcrowded, boys are punished for making mistakes and are hardly praised for effort. Not liking to read, they don’t try, so get stuck in the slow lane.
The content of reading material for children is geared to a reading age which corresponds to chronological age, so is too childish for boys who learn to read late.
Their role models are not reading, so reading is considered by boys to be a ‘girl thing’. Boys would prefer to be outside playing football, or if they are inside, playing video games, computer games, or watching TV, but they do like to read comic books.
As long as boys are reading something, I don’t see that preferring non-fiction to fiction should be frowned on. They often step up from comic books to computer magazines or other magazines suited to their interests.
A more fundamental question to be answered is whether boys are uncomfortable with the feelings which reading fiction arouses. It’s okay for girls to have these feelings, but not boys. Is the inability to deal with these feelings a reason for antisocial behavior? Robert Lipsyte explained that discussing fictional character allowed freedom to express feelings the way girls do. If they can’t read, should we read to them and discuss?
Useful stories for discussion, especially ‘Slater Minnifie and the Beat Boy Machine’, and ‘The Man Who Loved Flowers’ are in FLYING WITH ICARUS by Curdella Forbes. Two other Caribbean boy’s books are LEGEND OF ST ANN’S FLOOD by Debbie Jacob and THE BOY FROM WILLOW BEND by Joanne Hillhouse.
Link to Hazel Campbell's blog: